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time to call in james bond - 007?


  1. A comical slant on a serious problem.




    Jason Riley: There's Only One Man For This Job

    November 22, 2002

    THE CIA says the war against al-Qa'ida is straining its resources. Intelligence agencies in Germany, France and Australia are also getting antsy. Meanwhile, US Homeland Security Department chief Tom Ridge mulls publicly whether the US's risk barometer should be set to "elevated" or "high" (but keeps private the difference between the two). And a new audio tape suggests that perhaps Osama isn't frolicking with celestial virgins just yet.

    Clearly, it's time to do what we always do when psychopaths are threatening the civilised world – while civil-libertarian absolutists bray and Kofi Annan calls for more "patience" – and we've exhausted all other alternatives. It's time to call in 007.

    This year marks James Bond's 40th in cinematic service to Mother England and, by extension, the West. Not that anyone need worry about his age, of course.

    Bond's physical appearance may alter occasionally: in the mid-1970s and early '80s he shrank a few centimetres, lightened his hair and overutilised his smirk. But ever since, the studly secret agent with a licence to kill has been back in the tall, dark and dashing no-nonsense mode of his early days.

    Bond's chief attribute – or at least what makes him so qualified to track this Saudi-born sicko – is that he gets older without ever getting old. Which means he can put his decades of experience to work with undiminished fortitude. Since Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher won the Cold War, Bond has been busy cleaning up the fallout – eliminating rogue British agents (GoldenEye, 1995), ex-KGB henchmen (The World Is Not Enough, 1999) and the like. In his 20th outing, Die Another Day (to be released in Australia on December 12) Bond goes after some North Korean ne'er-do-wells, no doubt in response to President George W. Bush's axis of evil speech earlier this year.

    But bin Laden, by his very nature, is a more typical assignment for Bond and in the tradition of joint CIA-MI6 operations in years past. Indeed, Bond's first mission (Dr. No, 1962) took him to Jamaica's Crab Key to investigate the disappearance of 006, who was there to help the US figure out why our Cape Canaveral rocket launches kept veering off course. It turned out that a wealthy homicidal maniac was the perpetrator, and Bond took care of him before he could do any more harm.

    Afterwards, something of a pattern began to develop. A German card cheat with a freakish affinity for gold needed handling (Goldfinger, 1964). His plan, "Operation Grand Slam," was to radioactively contaminate the US gold supply for 58 years, thereby increasing the value of his personal holdings. Bond, with last-minute help from Pussy Galore – she needed some convincing; he provided it – put an end to that scheme.

    The next year, the eye-patched Emilio Largo, SPECTRE's No. 2, hijacked a NATO plane equipped with atomic warheads and tried to ransom the materiel for $100 million (Thunderball, 1965). A later assignment had Bond investigating a diamond-smuggling ring and discovering that a voice-altered cad named Ernst Blofeld had built a satellite laser gun in yet another effort to extort the world powers (Diamonds Are Forever, 1971). As with Galore, Bond managed to persuade Blofeld's paramour, Tiffany Case, to turn state's evidence.

    In short, 007 has spent the better part of four decades ridding the earth of wealthy homicidal maniacs (and often stealing their women in the process). Who better, then, to send after bin Laden, the scion of a construction magnate? If the master terrorist is still in business, reports Time magazine, he has probably not strayed very far from his Afghan cave dwellings. That could put him in neighbouring Pakistan, or even India.

    Bond knows the region well. His successful pursuit of another exiled Afghani, Prince Kamal Khan, familiarised him with the subcontinent (Octopussy, 1983), and he thwarted the double-dealing Russian officer Georgi Koskov at a Russian air base in the middle of Afghanistan (The Living Daylights, 1987). And if, perchance, bin Laden has decided to skip over to Cairo for Ramadan and the state-sponsored broadcast of the "anti-Zionist" Horseman Without a Horse TV series, don't worry. Bond will find him. Recall that he chased Jaws halfway across the Arabian Desert – and with a Russki hottie trying to show him up, to boot (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977).

    All that's left is for the president to pick up the phone and remind Prime Minister Tony Blair of the "special relationship". Tell him to ring M, get Q up to speed on the necessary gadgetry and locate our secret agent.

    Knowing Bond, he's probably right where we found him for that first mission 40 years ago – in formal wear, at the baccarat table, smoking a cigarette and eyeing a supple brunette who's returning the favour. Tell M we'll send Condoleezza Rice over immediately to brief Bond on the essentials. Wait. On second thought, don't send her. We want 007 (and Condi) to concentrate fully on the task at hand.

    Tell him we're sending Donald Rumsfeld.




    Jason Riley is a senior editorial-page writer at The Wall Street Journal.


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